Why Does the Brain Need Sleep? – 11 Reasons


It is no surprise that in order to function properly and at our best we need the proper amount of sleep. Otherwise, our bodies begin to suffer from a variety of effects of that sleep deprivation. Our brains are no different and because they are the control centres of our entire system, it is critical that we get that quality sleep. I am sure that you know that after a poor night’s sleep, you just cannot seem to think straight but there are several other consequences. So why does the brain need sleep? Let’s explore the impact of too little sleep on the brain.

#1. Impaired Thinking

This is not exactly shocking, is it? We have all tried to think straight on a poor night’s sleep and have failed miserably. Then we ask ourselves, “Why does the brain need sleep?” Our cognitive processes are compromised when we do not get enough rest.

As a result, our ability to think about more than one thing at once or switch between topics becomes difficult. The brain is unable to function properly and it is forced to put its energy into one thing at a time.

#2. Memory Loss

The brain is a complex organ. Throughout the course of the day, we are constantly taking in information and attempting to make sense of it all. During restful sleep, the brain works hard to process that information and put it into our memory bank for recall later.

Therefore, if you are not getting adequate rest, your brain is not able to hold onto that information and you experience memory loss.

#3. False Memories

Without sleep, we may experience memory loss but we can also experience false memories. Yep, our brain makes stuff up for the hell of it! In its attempt to process and make sense of what we learned during the day, it can insert memories that are not completely true.

It is like it is trying to work hard to create the memories but because of improper functioning, it can’t quite put all the pieces together.

#4. Loss of Volume

No, I am not talking about everything suddenly becoming quieter! (Hmmmmmm some days this would be a good thing, don’t you think??)

When you are not getting enough sleep during the night, there can actually be some shrinkage in your brain. This can occur in the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes of the brain.

#5. Sudden Anger

You may have noticed that after a long night with little to no sleep, every little thing may be annoying to you and even cause you to not be able to regulate your emotions.

The ability to be emotionally aware may go right out the window and now you are picking fights with your coworkers or partner for no reason. This is because various parts of your brain are now struggling to communicate with one another and therefore, your feelings and reactions have become volatile and unpredictable.

#6. Poor Eating Decisions

You have had three hours of sleep and suddenly you are reaching for potato chips and greasy burgers. Your ability to make rational decisions regarding your food choices is diminished while your desires are amped up.

Obviously eating poorly impacts your overall health but one day of it is not the end of the world. Try eating some foods that will help you sleep so that you can make better choices tomorrow.

#7. Slurred Speech

Language processing occurs in the temporal lobe of the brain. If you are exhausted and sleep-deprived, that part of your brain struggles to enunciate words clearly and you could find it difficult to speak properly. A severe lack of sleep can appear as if someone is intoxicated. If that doesn’t answer the question, why does the brain need sleep?, I don’t know what does.

#8. Hallucinations

A well-rested brain is capable of distinguishing between information that is required and what is not to prevent it from becoming overwhelmed. Whereas a tired brain cannot sort through all the information coming and thus, utter chaos begins to occur in your cocoa bean! A person will then begin to anticipate things – thoughts, objects – that are not actually there.

#9. Become Spaced Out

Last night was a late-night visit with some good friends and now you sit in a meeting with your colleagues and your boss. You are trying your best to remain focused and alert but no matter what you do, your brain refuses to cooperate with you even a little bit. You find yourself missing bits of information and cannot seem to follow the presentation. Nothing is making sense.

Your brain is tired and that fatigued brain is unable to process the information coming at it, and well, it tunes out. Your eyes can become glazed over, meaning that even your visual sensory processing (the ability to make sense of the world by what you see) is compromised as well.

#10. Poor Decision Making

I believe we have established that when you do not get enough sleep, your brain functions improperly. This is no different when it comes to making proper and rational decisions.

When you have had enough sleep, you can think thoroughly about choices, contemplating the advantages and disadvantages of your options. The opposite is true without the needed rest. In fact, we are more likely to take greater risks when we are sleep deprived as we cannot calculate the dangers that may be lurking.

Your ability to be self-disciplined is affected and as a result, there are consequences to be had that can lead to self-sabotaging behaviors.

#11. Brain Damage

And to the most serious of all reasons to get a good night’s sleep – you are causing damage to your brain! A lack of sleep actually kills brain cells, specifically in the brain stem. This damage cannot be undone and therefore, is permanent and people wonder why does the brain need sleep. Even if you get a couple of extra hours sleep on Saturday morning, that harm has already taken place!

Final Thoughts…

The impact on your brain from a lack of sleep is serious business, people! It should not be taken lightly.

Of course, staying out late and sacrificing sleep may seem worth it at the present moment but in all reality, all you are doing is hurting yourself and your brain. It is time to stop asking, “why does the brain need sleep?” and just get that proper rest.

Consider finding ways to get a night of better sleep and you will be surprised at how much your brain will thank you.

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